There's a fine line between sharing and sharing too much. One thing I am in the process of learning is that there are safe places to share intimate details and not so safe places. This applies to people as well. A problem arises when you think you are sharing in a safe setting, and it turns out not to be. This happens both online and in real life.
A good example is sharing in a group or forum online. In general, a forum with guidelines that specifically promote ideas about recovery from an eating disorder usually ends up being a safe setting, but that's not always the case. I recently left a group that had all kinds of declarations about stopping pro-ana sentiment, yet every chance the moderator got, he posted triggering content. When other group members called him out on it, his response was something along the lines of, "Get a tougher skin."
What concerns me more is sharing with someone you feel you can trust and finding out later that you shouldn't have opened yourself up for potential wounding. I guess the lesson here is once bitten, twice shy. In other words, find out quickly who has your back, and if someone uses something you shared in confidence against you, avoid giving that person intimate details again. Same thing when someone can't be honest with you. While I generally forgive pretty easily, I'm careful about trusting.
That said, when you find people you can trust, keep them close.
I haven't been writing lately, and it shows. Sometimes when there's a lot going on in life, I isolate and focus more on distractions.
In the last few weeks, I have been working on creating a radio show/podcast that addresses eating disorders, recovery, body image, athletics, health and women's issues. The shows will air locally on Sunday nights from 6:30 - 8 p.m. MST. I've done two test shows, one on Bulimia posted just before this post, and one my own history, just a quick rehash of where I have been and where I'm headed. When I did that one, it was unplanned and very unstructured.
I still can't quite put my finger on all the reasons why, but I felt funny after we wrapped things up with the second recording. It felt like a lot of me, me, me. Maybe I shared too much. My co-host was very kind and assured me that it was not unlike what goes on during AA meetings, where people share their story in an effort to inspire others. Still, sometimes it's hard to know where the line of too much and not enough is when it comes to spilling your guts. Hopefully I will find a happy medium. Mostly, though, these recordings are going to be about other people and recovery in general.
I've got a few interviews lined up, but if you or anyone you know has a recovery story to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It looks like I have let this blog go. I'm hoping to breathe some new energy into it at some point soon. Much of my free time is being used to work on existing projects and start new ones. If all goes well, I will be adding an audio portion to this blog, but this is an idea that's still in the works.
One of the other projects I was working on recently has come to a close. It's called the Luscious Legacy Project, run by Sue Ann Gleason, founder of the blog Chocolate for Breakfast, whom I have mentioned before. It was good for me to take part in this event, and I was very happy to be involved with a supportive and kind group. I went into the program expecting to work on my writing skills. While that did occur, most of us also uncovered a lot of emotions and memories through the process. While at times it was challenging, it also ended up being a healing and enjoyable experience. I am happy to report that this was one of the best things I could have done for myself, and it's a lot cheaper than therapy!
In the last few months, I was hit pretty hard with a bout of depression. When I get like this, I tend to sit back and think, maybe a little too deeply, about the ways of the world. The darkness seems to be lifting. Lately, though, I'm in shock at how cruel, messed up and strange people can be. This is especially true when it comes to how people behave online. It seems the more we remove the human element, the more people feel justified in the horrible things they do and say. More and more, I feel the need to step away from the computer screen, just to get a dose of normalcy. Of course people are not always nice in real life, and, as I pointed out above, people can be full of kindness online too. Still, I find comfort in dealing with people face to face. It's upsetting and very strange to me how some people thrive on callous and underhanded online behavior: stalking, starting rumors, writing cruel comments, calling people names and more. Don't they have better things to do?
A friend of mine and I got to talking about a recent incident involving a chocolate shop that quickly presented a personal matter online in a blog post that was not exactly fact checked. In the post, the author called out another company, claiming this big corporation was trying to step on the little one when, in fact, the big company was merely following standard procedure in protecting its business.
I admit that I was looking at the situation from an emotional standpoint. I also assumed that the little company may have misinterpreted and misrepresented what the larger company was doing, because it didn't make sense to me that this larger company would suddenly threaten and lash out at a shop that carries its chocolate. Anyone not following the story closely was bound to jump to some inaccurate conclusions and immediately take the side of the small company. It was all right there in an open letter, after all. This did not sit well with me. I knew there was more to the story.
My friend looked at the situation as something businesses simply do. It's a shady but effective way to get attention and support, because nobody will pay much attention to any retraction or corrections down the road. This is exactly what happened. A retraction was was presented in a blog post the very next day. "Oopsie, I made a mistake!" People will focus on and remember the first claim, even if it's proven wrong later. So a big buzz was created, and nobody really responded to the correction and admission of the oops moment. Success.
The unfortunate thing is that many people responded with a lot of hatred toward the larger company the day the first open letter was posted. The owner of the big company posted a thoughtful and kind response on facebook, explaining what was really going on, but this didn't stop people. Most of the comments on the facebook post were atrocious, even though it was clear that the small shop owner had misrepresented what was happening. People should be ashamed, but they aren't. Any how many of them do you think apologized after the correction? I can't imagine how messed up the people who toss out such hurtful and cruel comments must be. I don't even want to know.
My choice is to support the larger company by continuing to buy their products as I always have. I had already stopped being a customer of the smaller one for various reasons, but I really hate to see this kind of thing happen.
On to better things.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts. If all goes well, I will be presenting some audio segments that deal with eating disorders, recovery, women's issues, running and training in the next few weeks.
Monday, Feb 23rd, I will be on KGNU interviewing Diane Israel and Carmen Cool to help promote Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The interview is at 3 p.m. MST.
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is the 22nd to the 28th of Februrary. Please note that my book, Training on Empty, is always available for free now. Readers can set their own price at the link below.
I have also posted a link to NEDA for anyone who needs more information about eating disorders and how to get help.
Please help spread the word that eating disorders are not ego based. The illness is complicated with many contributing factors leading to the disordered behaviors. If you know anyone struggling, encourage him or her to get help.
“A table!” my mother would yell from the front door. Her voice with the perfect Parisian accent carried to us no matter whose yard we were playing in, and everyone knew that it was time for my sister and me to go eat dinner. Torn between wanting to stay and play with our friends or leaving to go home for a home-cooked meal, Annie and I would hesitate before scampering home to the dinner table.
Meals were rarely anything fancy, unless my parents were entertaining, in which case out came Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and either my mom or my dad would fearlessly dive into the complicated recipe book. My mom never worried about simplifying things, whereas my dad, a theoretical physicist, had a way of making the complicated even more so. I fell somewhere between the two, a little bit messy as a chef but elegant and clean in the final presentation.
My dad’s version of everything was over the top and sloppy. He cooked army-style, in big pots with enough servings to feed an entire continent. The one Christmas he made a stollen, it was so long it didn’t fit on the table! My mom, on the other hand, cooked less extravagantly, but I’m convinced there was magic in her meals. Even her easy-to-make vinaigrette tasted like the best salad dressing ever made. Her recipe? Oil, vinegar, garlic and salt. When she showed me exactly how she made this delicious dressing, mine did not came out as good as hers. No, it had to be magic she put in there.
Everything she made was like that -- simple yet delectable. Her french fries were nothing but cut potatoes cooked in hot oil with a little bit of salt sprinkled on top, but I could never replicate the perfect texture: crispy on the outside but moist on the inside. I liked mine with large amounts of catsup.
When a birthday would roll around, my mom cooked whatever the birthday child wanted, usually shrimp tempura with rice. Sometimes she would make a birthday cake too. At other times, one of us would request a chocolate torte or some other kind of store-bought creation. On one special occasion, she made a coffee-flavored tiger cake for me. She cut pieces of the cooked cake and rearranged them to look like a tiger before frosting it in all the right colors, stripes and all.
Because my mother was born in France, my siblings and I were introduced to unusual foods at a very young age. I never found it odd that I liked the taste of Brie while my friends preferred packaged American singles. Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Years later, I would stick my nose into some potent Pont L’eveque while traveling in France, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I became a chocolate snob early. How could I not when my grandmother, who still lived in France, sent extraordinary chocolates every holiday season?
Despite our early introduction to gourmet and imported foods, we all still loved whatever was being served at our friends’ houses. Oddly enough, my sister and I were guilty of buying these obnoxious green frosted cakes made to look like frogs available at our local supermarket’s bakery. The overly sweet, bright-green frosting sat atop a small round of chocolate cake. It was piled high into a pyramid with white and black frosting piped on for the eyes and a red gel for its tongue. This was about as far from gourmet as one could get.
Another strange thing was that my mother actually didn’t like to cook. She often cooked hamburgers, pizza or stuffed peppers, because these dishes were easy to make and didn’t require a lot of time in the kitchen. Years later, my mother would write and illustrate a funny cartoon book called Divorcing the Kitchen, a tale of kitchen woes.
Part of the reason my mother didn’t like cooking was that it brought up bad memories of her childhood. Her father, whom I never met, was a perfectionist, especially in the kitchen. If every green bean wasn’t perfectly prepared and arranged, the entire pot would end up on the floor. You see, my grandfather had also been in a factory accident that left him partially deaf and possibly with other problems related to brain trauma.
The worst part about all of this was that my grandfather became an increasingly violent man and took his frustration and anger out on my mom and my grandmother, brutalizing them both to the point where he nearly beat them to death. In fact, as an infant and youngster, my mother often stayed with my great-grandmother, because everyone was afraid her father would kill her when she cried. It was there that she enjoyed life in the country, eating cottage cheese in cabbage leaves and hearty breads, breathing in the fresh air, and helping my great-grandmother wash clothing in the river.
Eventually, when my mother was older and back living in Paris, she and my grandmother devised a plan to escape my grandfather that involved a good friend of my mother’s offering an extra bag of rationed potatoes to him in an effort to get him away from their home. This way, my mom and grandmother could quickly pack their belongings and flee while he was off getting the much-needed food. This was all right before World War II. Needless to say, my mom’s life was not easy. She went hungry a lot during the war and even ate an occasional raw egg when her hunger overcame her, but she is a survivor. To see one of her children struggle to eat due to an eating disorder later in life was perplexing, frustrating and heartbreaking for her.
My mother was resolute about not inflicting her traumatic past on her own children. As a result, we all grew up with many wonderful food-related memories, none of which ended up with food angrily thrown on the floor.
One of my favorite food-related memories is of my sister and me waiting with our plates held out as my mom made crepe. She would flip one onto my plate, and I would first sprinkle it with sugar and then fold it into a triangle. My sister would do the same when she got hers, and we would continue eating until the batter was gone. When we were finished, my mom would make a second batch to be used for making blintzes. Those were filled with a ricotta filling and served at breakfast with either blueberry compote or maple syrup.
On holidays, my mom became terribly stressed out, but everything always ended up just fine. Our entire family would sit down to dinner, and we are a talkative, opinionated, headstrong bunch. My older half-brothers would arrive early. My dad would start drinking early, and by the dessert round, which for us was often the main event, everyone would be comfortably full and relieved that any previous tension had dissipated, at least to some extent and for a little while.
My mom and I are still creating memories. We sample cheeses and chocolates together, eat an occasional lunch together and discuss modern cuisine, GMOs and the environment. As she approaches her 90th birthday, I know my search for the perfect birthday gift will likely include something imported from France. Maybe this year it will be some Poilane bread, pain d’epices or pate des fruits.
Writer's block has struck hard. In an effort to break on through to the creative side, I'm going to spit a bunch of letters onto the computer screen, stream of consciousness style, sort of.
The other day I read an article about ultra runners and eating disorders. I don't remember who the author is, but in the piece, there were quite a few quotes from people I greatly admire. As always, Diane Israel had some worthwhile things to say. Diane has a way of conveying to others the main issues that contribute to eating disorders and compulsive behaviors in a way that nobody else can. It might be, in part, because she struggled with anorexia herself, or it could be that she understand more thoroughly than most what leads to disordered eating and compulsive exercise. In any case, she did a great job of describing why some people and athletes in particular can easily fall into a pattern of unhealthy eating.
I was surprised that one of the other ladies quoted in this article mentioned something about not winning a medal for being thin but winning them for being the best. The idea is that if you want to win, your goal can't be to be the thinnest, which makes sense. There are a few problems I have with statements like this, though. This one rubs me the wrong way just like statements about how people should realize that being anorexic thin isn't attractive to potential partners does.
In talking about winning medals, not everyone is destined to be number one, and it's a sad state of affairs if that's the main goal in running. Of course, this overly simplistic approach to dealing with potentially life-threatening and complex illnesses makes it seem like getting over an eating disorder comes down to a quick choice. Either I continue starving, or I go out and win races. Either I continue throwing up, or I get dressed up all fancy and find a date. It's not that simple. In fact, I would guess that at least some people fall more deeply into the illness when they realize that they are not going to win any medals or can no longer win them.
I'm sure that kind of statement isn't meant to come off as discounting those who suffer, but, when it comes to eating disorders and addiction, I think words should be chosen wisely. Just like I would never assume that telling an alcoholic he can only find success in a job if he stops drinking would actually help him recover, I doubt that telling someone with an eating disorder that dropping the unhealthy behaviors is the way to win medals will accomplish much. The issues are just too deep for that, and I'm pretty sure that anyone in the throes of the disorder is aware that unhealthy behaviors take their toll, emotionally, physically and even spiritually.
Besides, there's no guarantee that giving up the illness will lead to winning medals or success. What are the chances? What if that's not your true calling or passion and is just a symptom of the illness? I get the point, but telling that to a group that tends to err on the side of perfectionism probably isn't the best idea. When medals are lost, can you still love yourself and remember who you are, running aside? The focus in recovery should be more on inner peace than medals, job success or outer appearance. Sure, cute sayings like that are the norm, but I fail to see how they help.
In other news, I've decided to let my hair go gray. When I look around, I see how unnatural dyed hair looks on older people, especially when it's combined with other attempts to look younger, like using fillers, getting plastic surgery and applying excessive makeup, all of which apparently lead to having a strong urge to post a million playful selfies on facebook. I also realized how much I admire and like the look of natural hair on those who accept the aging process. A few people have said I'm brave to do it, like it takes some balls to not buy into the beauty standards other people set, but I don't see it that way. In addition to being lazy, it came down to a few simple reasons:
1. I was tired of looking at the environmental impact my insecurity was causing. Plastic bottles, boxes and dyes are not good for the planet, no matter how anyone rationalizes it.
2. I'm giving less of a fuck about what people think these days. The world has become a difficult place to live in, and the more I stay away from people and their judgments, the better.
3. The dyes were ruining my hair. Call me crazy, but I would rather have gray hair that no hair.
4. I don't have to worry about my roots showing, and I don't have to take all that time I was wasting to cover them anymore. It's a fucking relief. Now I can waste time doing or not doing other things.
Of course, I'm in that awkward in-between stage right now, so it's not as easy as it sounds to be 100 percent OK with this change. And I look older, which is hard to face. On the other hand, I think I will be happy once my hair has grown out a bit.
In still other news, the weather sucks elephant balls, my birthday is creeping closer and I am getting a third opinion about hip surgery in May. No, I haven't really been running much, but I am working with some of the best people in Boulder. They may not be able to fix me with PT, but they are doing some amazing things and incredibly kind and understanding.
Maybe now I can get back into blogging about cheese, something that usually brings me happiness but has been a struggle lately.
Recently, I read an article about the seven habits of chronically unhappy people. Most of these kinds of articles tend to be written for middle to upper-class white citizens living in the United States, but there were some very good points in this particular article. It definitely generated quite a stir with hundreds of people commenting on it.
A lot of the advice given on how to address these unhealthy habits was common sense, but simply pointing out the habits was enough to get me thinking. The article clearly stated that most people go from being happy to unhappy fairly regularly, and that's normal. Unfortunately, some people live in a constant state of worry and unrest. Many of the people commenting missed the part about some ups and downs being fine as long as you can figure out ways to avoid getting sucked under. What was more important to me was addressing the thinking around the habits and how important it is to be aware of why some of us tend to slip into these unhealthy habits in the first place. If nothing more, it's always good to take a look at our core beliefs and how they affect us.
On a side note, I can't stand the word victim. When people talk about playing the victim, it implies that pain and hurt are not real, and feelings are being denied. Yes, there are people who do see themselves as the victim, but it's important to consider why that happens. It seems victim is a word that's overused, misunderstood and misused.
A lady once told me that every woman, even those living in third-world countries, should stop playing the victim, because everyone has the ability to change his or her circumstances. She went on to claim that she hated feminists. Sure circumstances can change, but I have a feeling she would be singing a slightly different tune if she had no money, no transportation, no way of attending school and no support from her family or the community. It's weird how we become so complacent in this country but expect others to just change, buck the system and go against fixed and ingrained laws that are punishable by death or, at minimum, a dose of burning acid to the face.
What I'm finding more and more, whether it's people discussing feminism, Ferguson or heath care, is that the human element seems to be missing. We get so caught up talking in abstract terms, we forget there are real people involved in the issues. I am sure the internet has a lot to do with this. Human connection seems to be slipping away, even as we electronically network with more and more individuals.
I'm jumping around a bit, but hang with me here.
The other day, I got into a facebook debate. It had to do with a video in which a woman walked down the streets of New York receiving catcalls over many hours of filming. One person in the debate believes that it's the responsibility of the person receiving the mostly negative, sometimes threatening attention to suck it up and not be affected. Words are, after all, merely sounds that can't actually hurt anyone. As you can imagine, I am not of this opinion. It ended up being quite the debate.
What bothered me most about the whole thing was the bullshit Boulder spiritual woo this guy spouted. I think he was trying to sound smart, because he kept insisting that everyone was stupid while he demonstrated that he had no real understanding of anything science related. Go for the low blow when you have nothing of substance to say, I guess. It's upsetting that people like this are in a position to act as mentors to others. Apparently, he works as a life coach.
I'm all for positive thinking, but people here take it to an absurd level. There's a lot of talk about manifesting and "no negative energy in my sacred space" while the very people who spout these beliefs inflict their judgment and negativity on others. Hey, as long as you're happy, it's all good, right? Yeah, yoga-apparel-wearing, snotty lady, when you glare at me for simply walking by, snub me when I smile and say hello or make nasty comments about my appearance, you're not exactly being positive or nice. In fact, you're being pretty awful. Same goes when you call me stupid, oh so spiritual guy.
My concern is that people buy this shit. If you present anything in a pretty enough package and toss out enough new age rhetoric, people seem gullible enough to believe it. I have a friend who's smart, together and grounded, yet she goes to these charlatans who talk about quantum physics, even though they have no science background. They tell her that if she used the power of her mind, she really could put her hand through a wall, because, you know, there's so much space between atoms. That sounds really exciting, but it's just not accurate. Maybe if electrons sat still and all forces between atoms were eliminated, you could walk through a wall, but the world as we know it would also probably fall apart. But people take a teeny bit of truth and skew it in order to control others...and get money, of course. And people lap this shit up. It's sad. I'm sure some of the people who preach believe what they are saying, but my guess is the majority of them know more about the right terms to use to get people to cough up some dough.
In terms of being happy, finding the perfect pill, the next big self-help breakthrough or the best fad diet probably won't make you happy. If we constantly search for happiness outside ourselves, in a partner or shopping sprees, we probably won't find it. Things may seem different on the surface, but ultimately happiness comes from within.
But I'm not so sure we have to constantly access our state of being in order to be happy. Sometimes I think it's better to be living and feeling than to be happy. Sometimes choices that are right don't lead to happiness at all. Sometimes achieving great things doesn't lead to happiness, and that's OK. I think we would all be better off if we focused more on how to be a part of the world and dropped the Hollywood idea that we have to be happy. Life isn't always fun. My goal in life is to be a better person, not to always have a smile on my face.
Coupon good through Dec 3rd 2014. Coupon code: TU77P
Here is an excerpt from one of the stories, Missing the Big Lebowski.
His roommates called him crazy. They didn’t understand why Brent ran long distances. Even his fellow runner friends didn’t understand why he was drawn to ultramarathons -- races exceeding 26.2 miles and typically held over challenging off-road terrain. To them, it was a sport only people who weren’t right in the head did, but Brent felt driven to run. He wasn’t crazy.
Unlike some professional athletes -- Brent had won the prestigious Alamosa 50-Miler three years in a row, twice setting a course record -- he found balance in his life. He was on his way to a master’s degree in physical therapy, worked part-time at the Boulder Bookstore and raced ultras well enough to be sponsored by Pearl Izumi along with a number of nutritional-supplement companies. He had his shit together, even if he occasionally slid toward the extreme side of things -- an occupational hazard for an ultra type.
With his curly blond hair, his enchanting, almost otherworldly light-blue eyes, and a body that had not a trace of fat yet wasn’t runner-emaciated, Brent had undeniably great looks to complement his sharp wit and compassionate nature. Nevertheless, he didn’t have a girlfriend. He occasionally went on dates, but he was more interested in achieving his athletic goals than in committing to a relationship. A lack of time and a fear of being restricted kept Brent perpetually single, and while his friends urged him to try online dating or otherwise meet someone new, or explore his options with the ladies he’d already met, he never thought it strange that he had no desire to be overly involved with someone of the opposite sex. Even though Brent was very open-minded and had once come close to having a drunken sexual experience with a guy in his Tuesday night running group, he never questioned his sexuality and wasn’t interested in a relationship with a man either.
Brent put his energies into running, work and school. He was no hermit, though, and enjoyed going out for a few beers with his friends now and then. He also wasn’t completely uninterested in sex, but he rarely brought anyone home with him. When he did, it was usually his friend Tracy, who understood that a relationship with him wasn’t in the cards. She was just as busy as Brent with her job as the vice president of operations at the local animal shelter, her volunteer position at Every Pet Veterinary Clinic and training for triathlons. Tracy appreciated whatever time she and Brent could spend together. When she occasionally had twinges of desire for something more, she reminded herself that a more substantial bond wasn’t possible. Brent was in the same boat with his feelings. He liked Tracy, but generally ignored entertaining any thoughts of a committed relationship.
On most Saturday mornings, Brent liked to get up early and head to the high country, where he would spend hours running on the mountain trails. He would fill his hand-held water bottle with a mixture of CarboPro and water, and pack a cooler with energy bars, apples, juice, extra water and pretzels. His two roommates, Greg and Travis, were usually asleep when he left, often crashed out in the living room where they spent many hours smoking, drinking and slipping into deep conversations. Those two liked to party, but they did so in a level-headed way, never letting their fun interfere with school or work. Greg was an undergrad studying English literature and Travis was in graduate school studying applied math. It didn’t bother Brent that the house usually reeked of pot. Greg and Travis respected their roommate and made sure to keep the windows open, so the smoke didn’t waft his way, even if the smell of herb lingered.
This Saturday was a little different, because Brent had stayed out late the night before, drinking a few beers with friends after dinner at Perry’s Bar on the mall downtown. He didn’t fret about getting up late and enjoyed a rare leisurely breakfast of pancakes instead of his usual quick power breakfast of yogurt, fruit and toast.
While Brent ate, he thought about where he would do his long run. The higher mountains seemed like a good option since he had the day off from work.
Springtime meant unpredictable weather, especially in the high country where electrical storms could appear out of nowhere, but the forecast showed a string of warm, mild days and clear nights for the next three days. It was unlikely that an unexpected disturbance would roll through the area. There would be snow on the ground up high, but that wasn’t a deterrent for a mountain runner like Brent. He was used to running in all conditions and didn’t mind being active in cooler temperatures.
Two years earlier, Brent was training in the mountains one afternoon with Maddie, the third-place woman in the Leadville 100 in 2001, and Josh, one of Brent’s occasional training partners. The trio made it to Rogers Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area just as some dark clouds were sneaking over the top of the mountain. The small group didn't linger at the highest point along the route, doing a quick about-face once they reached the halfway point of their run. Brent usually liked to take his descents nice and easy, a slow jog down the trail to recover from the tough ascent, but on this day all three runners knew they were racing the approaching storm. Brent noticed their pace quicken as thunder rumbled in the distance and the sky went from piercing blue to black.
Nobody said anything after Josh mentioned that they needed to hurry down. As they departed the apex of their journey, they turned their attention to their footing on the rocky trail. Josh led the way and Maddie followed, with Brent bringing up the rear. Just as the timberline came into view, the first big clap of thunder sounded right near them. Brent jumped and instinctively flinched, ducking his head as if that would do anything against the wild elements of nature. As soon as he had regained his composure, he continued running, keeping Maddie and Josh in sight.
Shortly after the three of them reached the nominal safety of the trees, lightning burst in the sky, seeming to surround them in a violent flash. Brent felt goosebumps erupt over his skin. He admitted later that he had been scared. They continued their mad dash down the mountain as the angry sky unleashed all its fury, first dumping buckets of water, then releasing pellets of hail. The lightning and thunder continued until the threesome finally reached the parking lot, wet and cold but safe from the storm.
Brent dove into the car after Josh and Maddie and immediately turned on the heater, which seemed an odd thing to do in the middle of July. It was still dark all around. Brent and his running buddies let out some nervous laughter and talked about how crazy their experience had been. This would stick in Brent’s mind as one of his most memorable runs.
The short drive to Boulder brought them through the darkness and back into sunny weather. Brent, who hadn’t grown up in the mountains, was amazed at how quickly the weather could change at high altitude. He was always prepared, though, and would never think of testing fate by heading into a storm or running alone in unfamiliar territory.
Brent’s plan was to head North to Lyons and then up to Longs Peak. He figured he would run up from the Longs Peak Trailhead and head toward Chasm Lake. In the summer, when the trails were clear, he could head up the back side from the YMCA campground for a longer run. From the Ranger Station, it wouldn’t be too long of a journey for an ultra guy -- about nine miles round trip if he made it that far -- but with the snowpack on the trails, the incline and the altitude, it would be a solid workout. He could usually complete the run in less than two hours. If he felt up to it, he could wander down from the lake and up toward the peak if conditions allowed and he felt up to it. If he stopped on his way back to Boulder for a bite to eat at his favorite little Nepalese restaurant in Lyons, he could make it back home before 8 p.m, in time to shower and get ready to meet his buddies. Greg had mentioned that he and a few friends from school were going to see the cult classic, The Big Lebowski, which was playing at the Boulder Theater at 9 p.m. Brent had said that he would be there, barring any unforeseen delays.
Brent wasn’t worried about doing his run alone. He had made this trip countless times before, though only a few times this late in the day. Still, he looked forward to getting his body moving, whether it was a morning, afternoon or an occasional night run. As an ultrarunner, he rarely did double daily workouts and amassed the bulk of his weekly mileage in two long runs each weekend.
At 11:45 a.m., Brent changed into running shorts and a T-shirt and shoved a wind jacket, hat, gloves, a long-sleeved T-shirt, running pants, flip-flops and one extra pair of running shoes into a backpack. He slipped into his running shoes and tied the laces loosely, grabbed the backpack and scribbled a note to his roommates that read: Went for a mountain run. See you tonight. B.
After taking a moment to mentally review a short checklist of items he might need for the day, Brent tossed his cooler full of food and drink and his backpack full of clothing onto the back seat of his dark gray Honda Civic and headed out, stopping at Vic’s for a cup of coffee to go and then continuing north on Broadway until he reached the edge of town.
The drive was easy, a straight jaunt to Lyons and then west to Rocky Mountain National Park. There were few cars on the road once Brent left Boulder. During the summer, the road to Lyons would be busy with tourists driving up to Estes Park and locals getting in their long weekend bike rides.
“Shit,” Brent said out loud. He realized that he had forgotten his cell phone. He sighed and assured himself he probably wouldn’t need it. It was something that he preferred having on him, especially when running solo in the mountains, but it wasn’t a necessity. Brent smiled as the pavement spooled away beneath him, reflecting on how people had gotten along just fine without cell phones in the past. He was all too aware of how addicted to electronics everyone was these days. Sometimes he took a break and completely unplugged, but having a cell phone on a solo run was a safety precaution, not a luxury or an obsession, a precaution he would have to do without on this day.
As he neared the fourteener -- a colloquialism for any of Colorado’s remarkable fifty-three peaks rising more than 14,000 feet above sea level -- he could see large patches of snow scattered on the mountain itself as well as on the expanses of land leading up to the peak. The snowfields near the very top of Longs would shrink as they melted but linger even through the summer.
The Ranger Station parking lot was almost empty when Brent arrived about an hour after he left Boulder. Taking in the spectacular scenery, he mused that the house he shared with Greg and Travis on 12th Street, while not even half an afternoon’s drive away, might as well have been in Newark or Beverly Hills or in a Bangkok slum; so compelling were the vistas here that they effectively reduced practically all others to the same degree of mundanity.
A couple was attempting to herd their three small children, who seemed more interested in continuing their game of “I Spy” than in what their parents were saying, into the car. Only three other cars were in the lot. Brent assumed that the tan Jeep near the station belonged to whoever was on duty at the Ranger Station. Rangers were on duty until 5 p.m. most days. The other two vehicles probably belonged to people who were out on the trails.
It was late to be starting a run up this high, Brent admitted, but he reassured himself that he could turn back any time and put in a few extra miles the next day if he felt uncomfortable.
Easing himself out of the car, Brent noticed how stiff his body felt. He was sure this would dissipate with some light stretching and by limiting the first 10 minutes of his run to easy jogging. The air’s noticeably lower oxygen content as compared to Boulder, itself already at 5,300 feet above sea level, seemed to make any aches and pains more noticeable.
The cool, crisp air struck Brent and made him feel more awake. It wasn’t cold enough to cause condensation, but just because he couldn’t see his breath didn’t mean that it was warm. He guessed that it was about 45 degrees. It would be noticeably colder the higher he climbed, and Brent was aiming for an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet. The sky was extraordinarily blue and clear, not a cloud in sight. He dug into his backpack and pulled out his long-sleeved T-shirt to wrap around his waist and slipped on his hat and gloves. His legs would be fine in shorts once he got moving. He untied and tightened his laces, making sure they didn’t bind his feet as he retied them.
Brent put his car key in the pocket of his shorts and walked over to the bathroom of the Ranger Station to relieve himself. It was nice to be able to use a real bathroom before a run, though he had no problem finding places to go in nature. After walking back to the car, he took a few sips of water from the extra water container in the cooler, grabbed his hand-held water bottle, stretched and jogged to the trailhead. Brent knew the trail well, but he took a moment to look at the map at the trailhead out of habit. With a push of the start button on his stopwatch, he started his journey up the well-groomed path.
Short sections of the lower trail were damp, almost mushy, but Brent was agile on his feet, darting left and right as needed to avoid stepping in any puddles or running water from the melting snow rolling down the path. The trees cast shadows on the trail. He noticed a young couple on their way back to the parking lot, both wearing backpacks and casual hiking attire. The woman, a pretty blonde, was leading the way, laughing and occasionally stopping to wait for her partner to catch up. It looked like they were having fun, and Brent felt a twinge of loneliness, wishing he had invited Tracy to run with him. She was tough and held her own in triathlons, even though she wasn't quite at Brent’s speed when it came to running. Still, she was good company on an easy run.
Before long, the trail dried out for stretches at a time. The higher he climbed, though, the shorter the stretches of dirt got. As he approached 10,000 feet, the trail became solid snowpack.
Despite the snow on the ground, the weather was mild enough so that Brent kept his long-sleeved T-shirt around his waist. His pace was comfortable but steady. It was early in the season, and he had plenty of time to get fit for a summer of racing. This run was just a step in the process of altitude acclimation. By the end of July, he hoped to be used to the altitude and would be running up some of the highest mountains in the state.
About a mile before the junction of the Chasm Lake Trail and the Longs Peak Trail, Brent saw what he assumed were the last two people on the trails that day, two older gentlemen dressed in hiking boots, cargo pants, and heavy jackets and both using walking poles. Moving to the side of the trail as Brent approached, they smiled and nodded. One of them, though jovial, threw out some words of caution, something about how Brent should be heading down the mountain, not up, at this time of day. Brent returned the smile and gave a quick nod and responded with a short, “Yup, I’ll be quick about it!” acknowledging the advisory.
Brent continued toward the lake. All was quiet around him; the only sound he could hear was that of his own breathing. While it wasn’t quite the runner’s high that people talk about, he was certainly in the zone, unaware of time and experiencing life in the moment, not thinking about anything but his surroundings and how his body was moving in his environment.
Running, especially hill running, was all about rhythm. Brent took shorter, quicker strides on the ascents. Spectators watching him race in hill climbs often compared him to a deer or a mountain goat. His stride, while short, was still graceful, and he often surprised his competitors with his quick turnover on the hills, pulling away early and stretching his lead throughout the race. He had no fear when it came to leading a race. He didn’t mind pushing the pace and being a target for other runners who tried -- and usually failed -- to match his pace. There was no doubt that Brent was an extraordinary runner, and he loved it. He truly loved to run.
Having found his stride, Brent began to work harder, his breath quickening as he picked up the pace. He felt good. The harder he worked, the more he became internally focused. It was going to be a good workout for him. After passing the junction where the trail split but before reaching Columbine Falls, however, he encountered a large, steeply pitched snowfield. Though it looked challenging to traverse, he felt confident that he could get across it without any trouble. He glanced at his watch. He was making good time.
As he was about halfway across the wide, sharply sloping expanse of snow, one of Brent’s feet skidded toward the lower edge of the uneven trail, and he almost went down, staying upright thanks mainly to the chance flailing of his arms. The melting and hardening of the snowpack combined with an overlying layer of new snow had created some very uneven patches on the trail, and Brent -- deciding that his near-fall was a warning he’d be foolish not to heed -- resolved to slow his pace and exercise caution on this sketchy section. Being careful didn’t help when a few strides later, the snow gave way, and Brent was suddenly on his back and feeling himself tumbling down the steep snowfield, sliding and spinning helplessly until he slammed into a group of snow-covered rocks 50 feet below the trail.
For a few minutes, Brent lay still on his left side. His breathing was labored, but he didn’t know if it was because he was in shock or because he was badly injured. His entire right side was sore, and -- he saw as he pulled up his shirt on that side -- scraped and already bruising. When he got over the initial jolt, he took stock of where he hurt the most: his right ankle, hip and shoulder. He slowly rolled over onto his back, looking up into the cloudless sky. Knowing that sunset wouldn’t come for a long time comforted Brent in a small way, but he was no fool and knew the dangers of being injured alone on a mountain. As he sat up, he realized that his hat was nowhere to be found.
Attempting to stand caused tremendous pain in Brent’s ankle. He cried out, a sound that seemed to get lost in the immense mountainside. Realizing how tragic this situation could become, he became almost frantic and started yelling for help. His desperate pleas for assistance were met with silence, an overwhelming silence that made him feel immeasurably small and helpless. Suddenly the peaceful quiet he had enjoyed on his ascent seemed ominous, almost evil.
Brent knew that he had to get back to the trail. Because he was no longer running, he started to get cold. Fortunately, he still had his long-sleeved T-shirt tied around his waist, so he quickly untied it and, careful not to aggravate his already injured shoulder, slipped it on over the shirt he was wearing. Then he began to climb.
To find how how the story ends, purchase the book on Smashwords.
I love this blog, because I can let loose and not worry so much about the small details. A lot of the time it's written with pure emotion as my biggest inspiration, and it's great therapy!
I feel a rant coming on. It started over a week ago. One good week followed by a few more painful ones, my exercise limited to merely jogging, started things. Irritability combined with watching Ben Afflick's outburst added to my growing unease. The final log on the fire was a facebook incident. I know. Facebook rage is as absurd as road rage, only it's usually less deadly.
Since the tragic incident, in which nobody actually died, I've been thinking about why I got so fired up over something I probably could have ignored. Those thoughts seem to have spilled into the following rant:
Let me set the stage. I spend a lot of time in a mentor role, mostly in facebook groups for eating disorder recovery. There's a language we speak in these groups, and there are strict rules including: no talking about numbers, no posting unhealthy images or potentially triggering images, and warnings on posts that might trigger others.
I have gotten used to these rules and usually obey them in all areas of my life, even on my own blog, though I have mentioned numbers on occasion, usually with a warning. All potentially triggering posts with images come with a big warning at the start.
Having said this, I know all about the first amendment and people's right to free speech and their right to express themselves. On the other hand, I also believe in responsible speech. While I would never try to dictate what someone says or posts on facebook since it is a public forum, I will occasionally state my opinion on certain posts, so when a computer generated image of a very anorexic lady on a treadmill popped up in my news feed, I reacted and said something.
I want to make it clear that I'm not triggered by these kinds of images, but I find them upsetting. I have what's almost like some sort of PTSD reaction. I know the hell of living with an eating disorder. I know how boys, girls, women and men suffer with these kinds of illnesses. I know what it is to be torn between wanting to slit your wrists versus struggling through another nightmarish day, so I make every attempt to be there for those still in the throes of it.
In response to this image that was reposted from another profile by an acquaintance, I made a friendly comment about how these kinds of images can be triggering. The poster and several of this person's friends shot back with comments about life being triggering and how triggering is a great way to wake up and get real. I think there was also a comment about not looking if you don't like a post, which is valid, except I didn't go looking for this image; it popped up in my face without warning.
Had this person not been adamant about wanting to help others love their bodies, I probably would have let it drop. Knowing how an image like this can affect the people in the eating disorder forums I'm in, I got ragey. I shot back, but I kept it very civil and on the kind side, as much as possible, all things considered. I held my tongue while still attempting to get my point across.
Apparently, this person wanted to post the image in an effort to promote wellness. It's hard to see how posting an image of what's supposed to represent an extremely ill person would turn a switch in someone's head enough to make them decide not to starve, exercise less and be as empowered as those commenting claim to be. You don't usually see pictures of raging alcoholics in the gutter inspiring active alcoholics to stop drinking, so it's difficult to see how this strategy would work when it comes to eating disorders. Besides, I find it unkind to point fingers at others and announce, "Don't be like this guy!"
What I found most disturbing about the entire transaction was that only two people made any effort at all to understand what I was saying. People seemed to be so dead set on being right that any thoughts contrary to the mainstream were discounted. Instead, there was talk about stroking egos, tough love and calling others out, like anyone struggling isn't already aware, at least on some level, she is struggling. Possible denial aside, I don't think seeing an image of an anorexic person will make anyone think, "Holy crap! I'm too thin too! I must grab an Oreo!"
When one poster suggested that anyone in the throes of an illness who might be triggered shouldn't be on facebook, I about lost it. I really wanted to throw some nasty words onto the computer screen. I mean, just because I'm the other side of the illness, it doesn't mean I don't remember what it was like to be triggered by nearly everything. That doesn't mean I should have stopped participating in the world at that time. Instead of being bitchy, I simply mentioned that many people who are struggling find great support in online communities, especially on facebook. I also reminded anyone who would listen that what you say and do can have an effect on others, either positive or negative, and when it comes to posting images that are highly disturbing, the effect can not only be negative, it can be downright damaging and long lasting.
All I wanted was a little warning, something like the warnings at the start of graphic movies or potentially upsetting news stories. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, yeah, it's this person's wall, but I find it sad when people are unable to step outside themselves and consider how actions might affect others. It definitely wasn't wrong to post that image, but I found the move thoughtless. I say this considering the insistence that this person is out to help people find self love. Had it been Joe Blow, I would have kept my mouth shut after my first comment.
To be fair, I understand the motivation behind the attempt. I do believe this person meant well. Also, there were some very thoughtful comments by several people, discarding the ones that were downright snotty and meant to be mean, and those were not handed out by the original poster. If nothing more, I hope that before the entire thread was deleted (guess who got the last word? hehe), it got some people thinking.
I fully believe that people should speak their truth, but do it in a way that's not hurtful to others. If you insist on calling others out, at least have some fucking compassion when you do. And be sure you're not hiding your own demons in the basement before you go ordering others to take a good look at themselves.
I've been struggling to come to a better understanding about forgiveness and how it plays a role in recovery. I don't just mean recovery in terms of addiction or eating disorders but recovery or healing in general.
I started thinking about forgiveness this week when I read an article about a lady who was raped and forgave her attacker in the courtroom where he was being sentenced, even though he wrecked her life so badly she was forced to relocate to a different country. In the comment section of the article, people gave their opinions on why this move was more beneficial for her than for her attacker. One can assume that for her, it meant letting go of resentment that was eating at her, and being willing to accept that she could forgive without letting him off the hook. He's still accountable for his actions, but she no longer has to be involved in his life in any way. She doesn't have to waste energy thinking about how his actions hurt her. This is not an easy task.
If one could imagine two people attached together by a large ribbon, the ribbon would represent the ties of anger that hold the two beings together. If one imagines taking a large pair of scissors and cutting through that ribbon with the two pieces drifting away from each other, that represents how forgiveness should free a person. Everyone knows it's not this simple, though. Why is that? Why is it easy for some to "let go" but not for others?
I'm starting to see that anger and resentment harm the one feeling those emotions. The perpetrator is unaffected. No matter how badly we want the world to operate with the same standards we hold, it simply doesn't. People can be shitty, period. I just blogged about my childhood, remembering how terribly I was treated by so many people. At various times, I have been angry at my former coach, my dad, my peers and anyone who bullied and teased me. I had a terrible time letting go of this anger until I started to heal the part of me that believed, on some level, that maybe I somehow deserved these wrongs inflicted on me.
I think what was most eye opening to me was when I tried to put myself in the other person's shoes. The groups I was in during various hospital stays engaged in a lot of role playing, which helped the healing process to some degree. During one of these sessions, I remembered wondering how anyone could treat a child the way I was treated. Really, how could anyone treat another human being that way?
In trying to understand how anyone could administer such hurt, I discovered I couldn't, unless perhaps I had been operating from some deep hurt myself, but even then I couldn't imagine it. Still, it helped me realize that sometimes people are doing the best they can. This may not help heal, but by knowing that my dad or my peers did the best they could, I was able to soften a little. From there, I worked on forgiveness. Yes, they were terrible to me at times, but they had their own issues. My dad was suffering and battling his own demons, bad ones. Unfortunately, his best, in terms of being a loving father, wasn't very good, but it was the best he could do given his own situation. Plus, apologies or even recognizing being in the wrong doesn't come easily to most people, so they aren't likely to tell you what you want to hear when you ask for an apology.
The big problem is that forgiveness doesn't necessarily take away the hurt. It takes something more to move through the painful emotions. We are not taught how to express anger and hurt, especially in this country, so we learn to shove our feelings down or take things out on ourselves. We aren't allowed to be angry, so we turn the anger inward.
They say time heals all wounds and can lead to forgiveness, but this is only true as long as you don't feed the resentment. Time was a big factor in my ability to let go, and I danced for a long time with the frustration and anger inside me. Coming to terms with this idea that people usually don't change was difficult.
Things got stirred up a bit when I interviewed my coach for the book I wrote, and he confessed that, if given the chance to go back knowing now what he didn't know then, he wouldn't do anything differently. I was shocked. I know I would have done a lot differently, like spoken up for myself a hell of a lot more in his presence. In the end, there's nothing I can do to make him realize the tremendous hurt and damage he caused me, and I can't change the past. There will never be an apology on his end, so I had to accept it. It took years to do that, and I still don't like being anywhere near him. But I don't let the anger eat at me. It's his problem, not mine.
Some key steps in moving toward forgiveness are to move through and express the anger, be kind to yourself through the process and engage in dialog or role play to better understand the situation from all angles. Even if the other party can't or refuses to hear you, find healthy ways to define and address the hard feelings. Write or say out loud the things you need to say, even if the other person can't or refuses to hear or accept your words. In terms of expressing anger, it's OK to go to a safe place and yell or beat a pillow with your fists. You can try channeling that anger in movement or sports too, anything to keep from turning it inward, or you can even try expressing the anger through journal writing or another creative outlet.
The last piece of advice I have is to avoid putting too much energy into talking and reliving the experience. Part of moving forward is to address the issue, several times if needed, and then work on describing and visualizing how you want your current situation and your future to be. I know a lady who is stuck in the past, and she can't help but bring up her regrets, frustrations and hurt pretty much every day. This is not moving through the emotions or moving forward; it's staying stuck.
If anyone else has suggestions on how they moved through anger and resentment after being treated badly, please feel free to leave a comment.
I landed on the other side of the darkness. Anyone who goes through these bipolar ups and downs will know how grateful I am to be over the depression that can be so debilitating. And I am actually proud of myself that through it all, I still manage to keep on track in my recovery. That takes some courage.
I know that probably won't be the last one. It might not even be the last one this year, but at least I can see some light.